Bank of America site appears fixed after 6th day

NEW YORK (AP) ? Bank of America’s home page and online banking service appeared to be back to normal late Wednesday. But the bank still declined to explain why customers had problems accessing their accounts for six days.

A spokeswoman for the company, Tara Burke, also would not confirm whether the issues had been fully resolved or whether any customers were still experiencing slowness. She said only that online banking was now available.

That was in contrast to the bank’s multiple statements since Friday that the site was fully restored, only to have problems resurface.

Burke had ruled out hacking as a potential cause early on and said customers’ personal and financial information wasn’t compromised. But she said the company doesn’t disclose the “root causes” for site problems.

Bank of America Corp., based in Charlotte, North Carolina, is the largest U.S. bank by deposits and has 29 million online customers.

The website delays meant some customers who normally bank online had to go to branches or ATMs to access their accounts in recent days.

Bank of America customers also had difficulty accessing their accounts in January and March. The company said in both cases that the problems resulted from routine system upgrades.

The latest outage was significant for its duration.

Shawn White, vice president of Keynote Systems Inc., which monitors the performance of company websites, noted that banks have invested heavily in promoting the convenience and safety of their online services. He said the length of Bank of America’s outage could seriously damage its customers’ confidence in the company.

When outages occur, companies need at least to keep customers updated, said Jacob Jegher, an online banking analyst with research firm Celent. That’s especially true for banks because of the sensitive nature of the information they handle, he said.

Even if the bank doesn’t give an explicit reason for the outage, Jegher said that companies’ participation in social media has led customers to expect a greater level of communication.

“We’re in an environment now where electronic banking is a mainstream channel,” he said. “Any extended outage is unacceptable ? particularly for a bank with this many customers.”

The problems began a day after the company said it would start charging a $5 monthly debit card fee. That announcement Thursday was met with customer outrage; an online petition at asking the bank to reconsider the decision had more than 132,500 signatures by Wednesday afternoon.

Several major banks have introduced new or higher fees for checking account customers in the past year. The industry says the changes are needed because of a new regulation that limits the fees they can collect from merchants whenever customers swipe their debit cards.